If you’ve ever read tabloid news of the latest celebrities doing tantra yoga, you might have been led down a path of misunderstanding. Although it’s focused on greater intimacy with the self and others, tantra yoga isn’t about sex.
So, what is tantra yoga? Tantra yoga is about finding balance with our human instincts so that we can embark on a journey to reaching greater enlightenment.
Read our guide to tantra yoga. Here, we’ll uncover everything you need to know about this complex and intriguing practice.
What Is Tantra Yoga?
Tantra is a word that means “to weave.” Tantra yoga works on energy, helping to channel it regularly so that one can expand their consciousness.
Tantra yoga is powerful because it focuses on all aspects of one’s life, such as home, family, and work. Its purpose is to blend the material and spiritual.
Tantra yoga takes the following into account: the physical body, the energetic body, the bliss body, the wisdom body, and the mental/emotional body.
Since all of these bodies contain their own strengths and weaknesses, by locating them we can achieve more control over our needs as well as desires.
Brief History Of Tantra Yoga
Tantra yoga has a rich history that dates back to India between 300 and 400 CE when it was documented for the first time.
Tantra yoga was shrouded in secrecy and mystery, as its teachings were highly protected and yoga masters would share them with their disciplines in oral form.
Then, during the 11th and 12th centuries, tantra became more popular and widespread in India. In the 13th century, India was invaded and this had a large effect on the practice of tantra yoga.
Tantrics were slaughtered and their manuscripts were destroyed. As a result of this, tantra yoga became less widespread and more of an underground practice.
However, during this time, tantra schools of thought began to develop in Tibet, after tantra teachings had been sent there from India.
Interest in tantra continued to grow, which is why between the 15th and 19th centuries, tantra was still highly alluring to rulers in India’s courts who practiced it.
Until 1911, the British capital at Calcutta in Bengal (which is now Kolkata) was regarded as a center of devotion to Kali, the Tantric goddess.
However, misunderstandings regarding tantra started to emerge, creating stereotypes of India being filled with sexual depravity and black magic. This enforced misconceptions about tantra yoga.
Around the 1960s and 70s, tantra ideas and imagery started to increase worldwide.
In South Asia, for example, artists made use of tantric symbols, while in the USA as well as Europe interpretations of tantra practices influenced the politics of the era, such as by being an inspiration for free love ideas.
During the 21st century, tantra has become a worldview, practice, and philosophy. There are even tantric sites where devotees go to worship the tantra gods.
Misconceptions About Tantra Yoga
Tantra yoga has wrongly been associated with tantric sex, which is the exploration of spirituality and sexual acts.
The reason why tantra yoga was misconstrued as being the same as tantric sex is that in the early 1900s, pioneers of tantra yoga who tried to share their interpretation of tantra with the west didn’t make use of its original texts and they also focused on it as being a sexual practice.
This, combined with tantric images of deities engaging in sexual practices, led to the misconception of tantra being about sex.
Other Misconceptions About Tantra Yoga
- You need a partner to practice tantra yoga. You can do tantra yoga on your own because the focus is on gaining a deeper understanding of your body as well as spiritual awareness.
- Tantra yoga is powerful, therefore dangerous. Although tantra yoga can be challenging, there’s the misconception that because it makes use of such powerful energy it’s potentially harmful. Tantra-related fears are also linked to the mystique of kundalini, the power located in the spine. This strong energy needs to be handled carefully and any impurities must be eliminated before awakening it. However, if you’re dealing with a trained practitioner, this can help you feel safer.
- Tantra yoga is black magic. As we featured in our section on the history of tantra yoga, there have been misconceptions about tantra being linked to black magic. Although tantra yoga can include meditation, mantras, and even healing crystals, tantra yoga is a spiritual practice that aims to help you reach a greater realization of the self. It is not associated with black magic.
- Tantra yoga is all about self-pleasure. The truth is that since tantra yoga involves spiritual awakening, you have to put in some work to achieve it, which can take many years of study. That said, getting in tune with your inner self is rewarding!
What Tantra Yoga Is About
If you want to get started with tantra yoga, you should know that this type of yoga is quite different from other styles. Here’s what sets it apart:
- Tantra yoga is focused on deep relaxation so that you can feel connected to yourself.
- Tantra yoga is about flexibility in terms of releasing emotional blockages of energy instead of gaining flexibility for aesthetic reasons.
- Tantra yoga is about focusing on greater self-awareness. There’s no right or wrong in that you have to do what feels right and comfortable for you, instead of expecting your tantra yoga teacher to tell you how to correct your alignment.
- Tantra yoga focuses on spiritual perfection or supernatural power. Tantra yoga practitioners focus on having power over their bodies and other aspects of the physical world.
Tantra Yoga vs Mainstream Yoga: What Are The Differences?
As we’ve seen in the previous section, there are quite a few important differences between tantra yoga and other types of yoga. Here is more to consider.
- Tantra yoga is about reflection and fostering an internal connection. It doesn’t contain as many asanas, or yoga poses, as you’ll find in other types of yoga.
- Tantra yoga class doesn’t include a yoga instructor telling you how to do various poses. You’re left alone to focus on what your body and mind require from the poses or meditations. In tantra yoga, the teacher encourages one to relax and listen to their inner self. There is less focus placed on the yoga instructor in tantra yoga as compared to the pivotal role an instructor plays in other types of yoga.
- Tantra yoga sessions can be long. Traditional tantra yoga sessions can last around two to three hours, whereas mainstream yoga classes usually last for an hour.
How To Start Practicing Tantra Yoga
Tantra yoga combines different techniques, such as visualization, meditation, and the study of the inner universe through our human body.
However, as we mentioned, tantra yoga doesn’t contain many yoga poses. More emphasis is placed on meditation, chanting, and scriptural study.
Do Relaxing Tantra Yoga Poses
The two poses you’re likely to make use of in tantra yoga are:
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
The Easy Pose is a great breathing pose that helps you to relax and fosters meditation.
Here’s how to do it:
- Set up a folded blanket underneath your sit bones so that you’ll feel comfortable.
- Sit cross-legged on the blanket.
- Lean back and forth and side to side a few times. This aligns your shoulders over your hips.
- Move your shoulder blades slowly down your back so that your shoulders move away from your ears.
- Slowly raise the crown of your head towards the ceiling.
- Rest your hands in your lap or on your thighs.
- Turn your palms up so that they’re receptive, or turn them down so that they feel grounded.
- As you inhale, lengthen your spine. As you exhale, root yourself down through your seat.
Accomplished Pose (Siddhasana)
This is another pose that helps you to clear your mind, focus on your breathing, and relax.
- Sit cross-legged on the floor.
- Put one foot on your inner thigh and the other foot closer to your ankle.
- Rest your hands in your lap or on your knees. Keep your palms facing up or down.
- Press your hip bones into the ground.
- Lift your head so that you sit straighter and your spine is extended.
- Bring your shoulders down and back.
- Focus on relaxing your belly, jaw, and face.
- Take deep breaths through your nose, and down into your belly.
- Hold the pose for as long as it feels comfortable.
Choose A Type Of Tantra Yoga
The most popular types of tantra include the following:
Mantra is a sacred Sanskrit syllable that originated in Tantric lore. The source of all mantras is “Om,” which symbolizes the four states of consciousness.
These are the waking state, the deep sleep state, the dream state, and the transcendental state. The “Om” mantra is powerful because when you chant it, it produces a vibration that helps you connect to your higher self.
A yantra is a tool used for meditation. When meditating, you stare at a sacred geometric image so that you can better still and focus your mind.
These geometric images can be made up of squares, triangles, lotus leaves, or circles that are meant to represent a specific deity’s energy field.
This type of meditation involves visualizing the chakras of the body, which are represented by different colors:
- Root Chakra (red)
- Throat Chakra (blue)
- Sacral Chakra (orange)
- Solar plexus Chakra (yellow)
- Third eye Chakra (indigo)
- Heart Chakra (green)
- Crown Chakra (violet)
How you can do chakra meditation is by closing your eyes and thinking about the different chakras one by one. A good tip is to think about a wheel spinning as a representation of the chakra you’re focusing on.
Let your breath expand the brightness of the chakra.
This is breathwork that’s practiced in yoga. It’s referred to as the “fourth limb of yoga.” It has three elements: inhalation (puraka), retention (kumbhaka), and exhalation (rechaka).
There are different types of pranayama. These are:
- Bhastrika pranayama. This type of pranayama boosts energy.
- Kapal Bhati pranayama. This is ideal for clearing your energy and detoxing the body.
- Bhramari pranayama. This type of pranayama calms the mind.
- Nadi Shodhan pranayama. This is known as an alternate nostril technique. It centers the mind and is thought to achieve this by joining the left and right sides of the brain.
Tantra yoga practitioners focus on the Great Goddess, Devī The Shining One. Texts state that the Goddess grants Mukti (spiritual liberation) and bhukti (worldly fulfillment).
There are 10 Goddesses that are worshipped in a tantra yoga practice. They each represent a piece of the universe’s power, with each goddess having their own wisdom and gifts for their devotees.
These goddesses can be worshipped in various ways, such as via mantras, songs, and meditations on them.
Where can you learn more about the history of yoga?
If you’re interested in reading more about tantra and yoga in general, you should read A Brief History of Yoga: From Its Tantric Roots to the Modern Yoga Studio.
What are white and red types of tantra?
Tantra can be red or white. Red tantra refers to the sexual practice, while white tantra is the solo practice.
Red tantra is aimed at helping you gain a more intimate bond with your partner, while white tantra is aimed at helping you bond with yourself.
If you’ve heard about tantra yoga, you might have some questions, such as if it’s the same thing as tantric yoga.
In this guide to tantra yoga, we’ve explored this type of yoga in greater detail, featuring what it’s about, how it’s traditionally practiced, and how it varies from tantric yoga.